Freddie Comes Alive: Chicago 3, San Jose 0

Freddie Ljungberg scored a brilliant goal and assisted on two others to lead Chicago to an unexpected 3-0 win at San Jose’s Buck Shaw Stadium last night.

While the game represented a chance for Chicago to keep its playoff hopes—best described as “slim,” or “mathematical”—alive, the more inviting opportunity, it seemed, was for the Earthquakes, playing at home, to bury the Fire with a win and take a big step closer to clinching a berth themselves.

The opening moments of the game reinforced this perception: San Jose had the bit between its teeth and dominated the Fire with crisp passing and sharper movement.

But when the Fire scored against the run of play, on a header by Elon University [!] alum Steven Kinney off a Ljungberg corner kick, the momentum shifted drastically. Like someone had hydraulically jacked up Chicago’s end of the field, tipping the play toward San Jose’s end.

In the 72nd minute, Ljungberg sliced through the San Jose D with a beautiful touch, then coolly finished with a chip into the far side-netting. Very classy goal.

The Fire completed the rout in stoppage time with a goal by Patrick Nyarko, assisted by Ljungberg and Brian McBride, who came on in the 90th minute.

What’s up with that, Chicago coach Carlos de los Cobos? You put McBride—U.S. Soccer icon, a man with a pub named after him at Fulham—into a 2-0 game in stoppage time?

McBride responded to the unusual decision by almost immediately setting up the third goal, springing Ljungberg on the byline to cross for Nyarko.

Chicago’s postseason hopes remain slim—they’re 10 points behind eighth-place San Jose with five games to play—but they’re not out yet.

Ljunberg Trade Looking Like a Win-Win

Former Seattle midfielder Freddie Ljunberg looked like a new man in his home debut for Chicago last night. He was dynamic and effective for most of his 90 minutes on the field, and nearly scored a goal just before halftime.

With Brian McBride playing in front of him, and soon, Nery Castillo playing regularly alongside him, the attacking midfielder has got to be excited about the prospects with his new team.

As for his former team, well, since Seattle shut down Ljunberg in mid-July and then, on July 30, made him the first designated player ever to be traded, Sounders FC has been on a tear.

The men in green have launched an eight-game unbeaten streak in all competitions, and have won their past four league games, including a 2-0 win over Houston last night. They got goals in that one from rejuvenated Colombian striker Fredy Montero, 23, and recently signed 24-year-old DP Alvaro Fernandez of Uruguay, who has two goals in two appearances for his new team.

(If early returns are any indication, the clubs have not been hurt at the gate, either: Seattle pulled in a healthy 36,111 for its match against Houston, while Chicago sold out its New York game, with an attendance of 21,868)

Seattle is currently 8-8-4, while Chicago is 5-5-6.

Time—and playoff qualification—will tell if the trade remains the positive for both sides that it appears to be now.

Freddie’s Dealt: Ljungberg traded to Chicago

When we heard that Freddie Ljunberg was “exploring his options” regarding a possible move away from Seattle Sounders FC, we assumed that meant he was looking at a return to Europe.

We thought he had become disgruntled not just with Seattle management but also with his MLS adventure in general.

Apparently the latter was not the case: On Friday, Ljunberg became the first Designated Player in MLS history to be traded, going to the Chicago Fire in exchange for a conditional SuperDraft pick (in either 2011 or 2012).

The trade gives Chicago two D.P.s (the other being recently inked Mexican playmaker Nery Castillo) and allows Seattle to avoid paying the luxury tax for having three.

The Sounders just welcomed Swiss international striker Blaise Nkufo into the fold, and on Thursday, signed midfielder Alvaro Fernandez, who played in four World Cup games for semifinalists Uruguay this summer. Both signings are D.P.s.

If Ljungberg is rejuvenated in the Windy City, Chicago could have one of the league’s best midfields with him, Castillo, All-Star Marco Pappa, and speedster Patrick Nyarko all available for selection, and John Thorrington looking to come off the injured list soon.

Ljunberg, Bornstein Headed Out of MLS, Ronaldinho on Way In?

Seattle Sounders FC Designated Player Freddie Ljunberg is “exploring options,” regarding other places to ply his trade, according to his coach, Sigi Schmid.

Ljunberg had an excellent first season with the Sounders last year, but has become dissatisfied in 2010, apparently over the club’s unwillingness to commit to him for 2011.

The former Swedish international hasn’t played since July 4, and he didn’t travel with the team for its July 15 game at D.C. United.

U.S. international Jonathan Bornstein has announced that he will join Mexican club Tigres after the 2010 MLS season. The 25-year-old defender—whose mother is from Mexico—will be the second capped American to depart Chivas this year, following midfielder Sacha Kljestan, who signed with Anderlecht earlier this summer.

If Dave Checketts is to be believed, there will be an acquisition in the next few days that will more than make up for these departures: The Real Salt Lake owner suggested that Brazilian superstar Ronaldinho, 30, was about to sign with Major League Soccer and join the LA Galaxy.

No word yet from the Galaxy or MLS on this, but … let’s see: Thierry Henry to New York, possibly followed by Rafael Marquez, Nery Castillo to Chicago and Ronaldinho linked to LA, (where he could line up alongside Beckham and Donovan)?

The three-D.P.s-per-team rule may just be on the verge of ushering in a new era for the 15-year-old league.

Freddie Says….

On this, the day he joined his Seattle teammates in preseason camp, we thought it’d be a good idea to take a look at Sounders midfielder Freddie Ljungberg‘s official blog, which has the lost-in-translation-sounding title of Freddie Speaks Up!

We didn’t find any info (yet) on his first day in camp, but there was plenty of interesting stuff. In addition to the straight-from-the-player’s-mouth announcement, last Tuesday, that he would be returning to the Sounders for the 2010 season (after drawing interest from several clubs in Europe), the blog contains a number of observations about recent MLS events, as well some personal notes.

The Seattle D.P. writes candidly about the CBA negotiations, and also shares some details about his off-season activities, including snowboarding in the Swedish mountains. (Sadly, we found nothing on Calvin Klein photo shoots with Natalia Vodianova, but hey, you can’t have everything.)

We were particularly interested in his comments about new RBNY coach Hans Backe, whom he calls a “top-drawer manager,” and one of the three people Ljungberg wanted to get the job coaching the Swedish national team when it was open in 2009.

Click here  to check it all out.